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September 13th, 2012 by Steven Aftergood
A new U.S. Army publication provides an introduction to open source intelligence, as understood and practiced by the Army.
“Open-source intelligence is the intelligence discipline that pertains to intelligence produced from publicly available information that is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence and information requirement,” the document says.
“The world is being reinvented by open sources. Publicly available information can be used by a variety of individuals to [achieve] a broad spectrum of objectives. The significance and relevance of open-source intelligence (OSINT) serve as an economy of force, provide an additional leverage capability, and cue technical or classified assets to refine and validate both information and intelligence.”
The new manual is evidently intended for soldiers in the field rather than professional analysts, and it takes nothing for granted. At some points, the guidance that it offers is remedial rather than state of the art.
For example, “if looking for information about Russian and Chinese tank sales to Iraq, do not use ‘tank’ as the only keyword in the search. Instead, use additional defining words such as ‘Russian Chinese tank sales Iraq’.”
But the manual reflects the ongoing maturation of open source intelligence (OSINT), and it contains several observations of interest.
“The reliance on classified databases has often left Soldiers uninformed and ill-prepared to capitalize on the huge reservoir of unclassified information from publicly available information and open sources,” the manual states.
Classification can also be a problem in open source intelligence, however, and “concern for OPSEC [operations security] can undermine the ability to disseminate inherently unclassified information.”
“Examples of unclassified information being over-classified [include] reported information found in a foreign newspaper [and a] message from a foreign official attending an international conference.”
Therefore, pursuant to Army regulations, “Army personnel will not apply classification or other security markings to an article or portion of an article that has appeared in a newspaper, magazine, or other public medium,” although the resulting OSINT analysis might be deemed “controlled unclassified information.”
Curiously, the new manual itself is blocked from access by the general public on Army websites (such as this one). But an unrestricted copy was released by the Army on request.
Somewhat relatedly, the Department of Defense this week published a new Instruction on DoD Internet Services and Internet-Based Capabilities, DODI 8550.01, September 11, 2012.